Monday, December 30, 2013

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Shove this up your Poll/Pole

Guest writer Pauline Mellon with her take on the year that we are set to leave behind.

As we approach the New Year it is prudent to reflect on the previous year.This year has been eventful politically and in countless cases the cracks and crackpots have become more evident, and I'm not even talking about landrover surfing!


The ongoing issue over the union flag at Belfast City Hall has been used to overshadow so many important issues this year. We have witnessed an upsurge in orange and green political tomfoolery manufactured here to deflect from the inability of the Stormont junta to deal with issues affecting many people.

The ongoing decorating of derelict buildings by painting curtains on the boards which now cover up windows is an attempt to make things more palatable but it does not belie the wreckage known to many as the economy. Countless commercial buildings and houses which were once family homes lie empty when homelessness and unemployment are on the increase. This practice is merely a physical manifestation of the attitude of those who hold the reigns of power, just paper over the cracks, they'll be none the wiser.

At the same time attempts are being made to abolish the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The Housing Executive was set up in 1971 to address the housing equality issue, helped along by the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. It is claimed by DUP Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland that the NIHE model is unsustainable. The removal of the Housing Executive can be avoided if borrowing restrictions for public bodies are to be made more flexible. If this move goes ahead social housing will be placed into the hands of housing associations which to date has seen rents increases by up to 28%. We must also remember that the implementation of bedroom tax may still be on the agenda. And on the subject of taxation, just imagine if multi national companies were made by Government to pay the taxes they actually owed, yet the haves will continue to get away scot free and the have nots will continue to suffer.

But more than the destruction of the NIHE, public spending is being slashed across the board further affecting societies poorest and most vulnerable. The current practice of sending those people with serious illness to health assessments to decide if they are fit to work or not are immoral at best. This cost cutting measure at the hands of faceless bureaucrats is very unfair considering not only are these people ill but there are no jobs and the prospects of employment remain bleak.

In 2012 Cecilia Burns, a 51 year old cancer sufferer, had her benefits cut by government officials who said she was fit to work. Cecilia from Strabane, County Tyrone, had started a campaign in February to have the decision overturned but sadly lost her battle against cancer in August of that year. I'm sure the Stormont Tory led bean counters didn't lose a night's sleep.

The ongoing manipulation of unemployment figures to give the illusion things are getting better continues when the stark reality is, people on benefits are being sent out for long periods of time to work for their pittance benefit to facilitate the manipulation of (un)employment figures. This scheme is known as 'workfare.' Workfare involves major companies having people on benefits work for free and the unemployed threatened with loss of benefits if they don't do what they are told. This horrendous exploitation was passed unimpeded by the parties in Stormont, including so called 'Socialist' parties, whose representatives earn a minimum forty thousand quid a year – not including expenses. So take a big bow!

Not only are our representatives not acting in the best interests of the people as an Executive their party interests clearly comes before the people. And before anyone says Sinn Fein MLA's only take home an average industrial wage, that is a matter of choice for them, they get their +40k, what they choose to do with it after that is up to them.

In recent times we saw the arrival of former American Diplomat Richard Haass to deal with issues our elected representatives are incapable of dealing with. Issues such as ways of dealing with the past, contentious parades, and the issue of the union flag. It would appear a resolution is harder to achieve than initially predicted, with Mr Haass clearly involved in a process of circular reasoning with a group of people more focused on protecting themselves, votes and flags than dealing with issues involving the truth or justice. One thing you can be sure of is that no matter what is decided by the Haass talks the parties and British Government will ignore these outcomes when it suits.

On the subject of ignoring outcomes, 2013 saw the publication of a report into the RUC investigation of the 1988 Good Samaritan Bomb in Creggan, Derry. Three people were killed in a booby trap bomb as they went to check on a neighbour they were concerned about. Previous reports into the murders had been scuppered and changed without reason by the former Ombudsman's office, and these reports were rejected by the family of victim Sean Dalton who had lodged the complaint.

The Police Ombudsman's report concluded that the RUC at that time had prior knowledge of the bomb. It was also found that the RUC had advised their patrols to stay away from the area yet they put the lives of the civilian population in the surrounding area in danger. The report continued to outline the refusal of senior RUC personnel to assist with the enquiries. The Ombudsman found that there was no protection of an RUC informer, something since contested inadvertently by the RUC retired officers association, who also advised their members not to participate in any investigation.

What was noticeable was that when the report was released not one elected representative in the north welcomed the findings or condemned the inactions of the RUC. Even the elected representatives in Derry including those who represent the area where the bombing happened were mute. These politicians all speak about victims when it suits, but here was a case of three people murdered and yet not one word from the great and good. Why the silence from those who claim to be in support of victims?

Looking to the future is important but this certainly does not mean ignoring the past, in fact we must reflect on and learn from the past, to paraphrase what we have been told in different circumstances 'it hasn't gone away you know'.

And on the subject of learning from the past, both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have on different occasions acknowledged that internment is still very much in use here. People are spending years in prison awaiting trial. In the current case of sixty three year old Lurgan man Martin Corey, he has been imprisoned for over three years without charge, trial or conviction on the strength of secret evidence. We need to question the main parties in Stormont asking, are you actively addressing this situation outside of reactionary lip-service? If yes then what are your party doing? If not then why not?

In closing I would like to remind all elected representatives that you are on fixed term contracts and if you are not up to the job then we the people will find people who are.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln.


And remember: changes are not permanent but change is.



17 comments :

Maitiu Connel said...

What an excellent post. I wish to raise some points in regards to the awful housing situation. Private landlords or as I prefer to call them, slumlords.
My wife and I had gone to view a few houses in St James and Beechmount areas and the rents on average where between £500 and £600. One of the homes was in awful condition. There was cement spilt on the carpet. Carpet in rooms that was not fit for a dog to sleep on and the slum-lord offered that he would be willing to drop the rent, if we were to fix up the house.
We just walked away as soon as that was mentioned.
Who is holding these scam artists to account?
Needless to say, the other 4 homes we viewed were also of a very bad condition.
For most cases, a mortgage is more affordable than some rents. Good old capitalism puts a hold on who is fortunate enough to afford such luxuries of home security.

Doing away with the NIHE is simply a matter of follow the money. It is always money that drives these people. The NIHE has given a home to thousands of helpless people over the years and a chance to buy at an affordable price. Many of my own family took part in those great deals.

I wish to raise other points but have to fly right now.

AM said...

Great piece Pauline - just what is needed to get us over the hump of 2013!

James said...

Magic Pauline from tip to toe.

Really agreed and enjoyed your take on the year. Thank you.

Maitiu,

No one holds a landlord here to account really, it is in the landlords interest to do the bear minimum to make the house habitable, charge an extortional rate based on a market that is manufactured by the media, letting agents, property developers, landlords.

This is why you every so often normally coming to the end of the financial period, ie march, sept, xmas you get all types of reports from the media by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), House Price Index, and certain university studies to fool the public that property transactions are rising, to fool the public into stimulating consumption.

Keep you eye out for it in the media, one report will tell you house prices have went up, another say the have stabilised, another no change.

They are designed to fool the consumer into buying, this has been going on from boom to bust since Thatcher allowed people to buy their council homes.

The same way as letting agents talk about market value which is based on location theory only, normally "they got that, we can get this", it really is that simple.

For example, it is in a letting agents interest to charge as much as they can for a property if they are property managing it for private landlord, as they can charge percentage of annual rent normally between 12-17%, depending on letting agent.

So what you have is a artificial value hyped market, with very little restriction as it is based on the old capitalist system of supply and demand. Most of these letting agents also do not have professional qualifications in property or construction ie glorified salesmen.

There you go, these people really do not want you to know that, now you do, threat them with caution.


The only body that can have a impact, believe it or not, is the environmental health. Now, if you were renting a private house, from a private landlord and you were in reciept of housing benefit, you can ask the housing officer to come and visit the property undertake a survey and refer to the condition of the property to environmental health.

Normal outcome, they speak to the private landlord and ask them to fix the problems, which they may or may not, in my experience and you gain more housing points and they move you on into a bearly noticeable better standard of housing.

All in time for Mr bad landlord to paper over the cracks, add superficial improvements and market the property again for some poor old soul.

And the cycle rolls on and on and on.

Ask yourself this question how many farmers and businessmen do you know are landlords?

marty said...

Yip another fine post from the Derry wannnn,on the issue of housing Pauline I totally agree, one of the best things to come out of the civil rights campaign was the formation of the Housing Executive which brought a balance and fairness to the allocation of houses in this place,taking the power,control and corruption out of the control of individual councillors,and elected reps,something quite clearly the arch bigot Mc Causland wants to re-establish ,now doesnt that just fit in nicely with the DUP,s and their quisling cronies $inn £einds agenda, fear and cronyism being their modus operandi, I thought the latest statement from MEP I,m a model quisling $inn £eind Martinabroy Anderson about remembering the homeless was crass in the extreme ,her party along with their bigots in partnership have and will continue to make sure that the homeless figures increase at an alarming rate,but hey this may be no bad thing as it will quite probably in a serendipitiously way provide an answer to the "fleg" problem and that is all the lamposts will be converted into tent poles and the "flegs" will become groundsheets,well laugh if you must but its as believable as anything "spike" the tout or wee gay Jeff will come up with !anyway as the old year fucks of much in the same way as it came in offering nothing but more of the same old shit from the same old mouth pieces,I,ll take a few drams with our Scottish counterparts who have a vision for the future of their country and are actively working for that goal, while at home our misguided comrades actions are as effective in securing our country,s reunification as what I,m wearing under my kilt,Happy new year...

Maitiu Connel said...

James

I for this new year of 2014 am trying my best to only expend my money where it is really needed. I own to much crap that I really do not need nor even use. I find that I prefer to only buy when sales are on and mostly only online now too. Consumerism is out of control. I stopped watching TV several years ago due to the constant commercials. Every where we go, we are bombarded with advert after advert. Buy and consume non stop.
Junk mail in the post on a regular basis. Sales people calling at the door. I am sick of it all. I do have a vice for buying books in relation to the Irish conflict.
I am saving money even by taking simple steps such as taking my own coffee to uni. Damn uni is packed with coffee shops and of course Starbucks, all charging near £3+ for a damn coffee.

We badly require a true Socialist party that can fight back against this madness of consumerism. Though, as we all know, capitalism has its dirty hands in every pocket around the globe. Beyond moving to North Korea, I am out of solutions lol.

frankie said...

Maitiu,
Good man..you stopped watching TV a few yrs back. I threw mine out in 2007. If I decide to watch something I push a button on my puter and watch online...Internet is the same, I don't pay...I know how to piggy back. In Paris there is no reason, Paris is wifi free. Most of the towns in the leafy suburbs are wifi free too..If i can't get a lock then I'll borrow a neighbours wether they agree or not. Basically means my IP addy isn't mine (changing your Mac addy is easy too)..Is it illegal? Yes. But the people who started the net wanted it free. But big corportations wanted to make a few green backs and charged people....

How do you begin to fight back..Easy, next election no one vote or vote in independants. It's as simple as that. It's not rocket science...On the other side of the oxymorons the PUL-ers are as pissed off with their elected reps as the CNR community are of theirs..

Maitiu Connel said...

Good job Frankie.
I love movies but only ever use Pirate Bay to obtain them. See people all the time in HMV and Tescos paying £15 upwards on a blu-ray. Actors getting paid millions while there are children starving in the world.
I have not bought a blu-ray in maybe 3 years.
I also stopped the habit of buying most designer label clothing. My mates always drag me into the Superdry shop. Paying £40 for a plain t-shirt because it has a brand name across the front. Just mindless waste of money. I use to be all designer labels but got wise to the BS with it all.
When we left America, I even gave my car away to a friend for free. She was living in poverty and a wage slave at Walmart. Communities need to share and help each other.
Here is a sad truth. I cannot even tell you any of our neighbours names. Times have changed.

frankie said...

Isn't the piratebay blocked in the UK...? I know they have mirrored the site but PB shouldn't work...baymirror.com should work in the UK..

Personally maitiu I use a bit torrent called Vuze. And the best (IMO) search engine for finding torrents is torrentz.me...I know recently the UK blocked lots of torrent sites but not this one (basically a mirror of the original torrentz.eu) There is another i sometimes use called Bit Che....

I don't download or watch many movies, I'd rather listen to blues and rock'n'roll and if I want to download any track I use a P2P site called SoulSeek..

if you want a decent virtual machien...click here

I know some of my neighbours, some I even enjoy having a beer and and joint with..

marty said...

Talking about beers Frankie I recall a bet you welshed on ...

frankie said...

I haven't welshed Marty...I have been in Belfast once in 10yrs. That was last Novemeber saying good bye to my big sister (passed away just before xmas)...I'll be back very soon and I'll make good..

It was to do with the BC case and you said buy Anthony a pint instead..As far as I can remember I went double or quits and lost on both accounts..

I keep my bets..Sometime between now and easter I'll be back over..

AM said...

Frankie,

I was sorry to hear about your sister. Hope you are coping okay.

frankie said...

Anthony cheers..Some live for three score and ten and some don't.. She didn't.

Feel more sorry for my parents and my brother in law...

I seen her before she passed away, I had crap to sort out with lawyers in France..Long story short I went off line for a few days, turned off my phone etc to get my head around legal documents..Turn on FB and got a message that she passed away 5 days earlier..I was hoping she would hang on until xmas..

frankie said...

PS...Hence Aidan Troy doing me a favour (from an earlier post)...

AM said...

Frankie,

indeed it would be very sad for your parents. The loss of a child can bring only unimaginable grief.

Maitiu Connel said...

My thoughts are with you and your family. Always awful news.

marty said...

Frankie sorry to hear about your loss a cara ,a poignant reminder how fickle and cruel fate can be,I can offer no words of comfort other than I hope with the passage of time your pain and that of your family eases, and yes the request to donate to Anthonys fighting fund still stands,

Tain Bo said...

Frankie,

I am sorry to hear about your loss my sincere condolences to you and your family.